Archive > November 2011

The Art of Camping

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The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars, Matthew De Abaitua, book reviewWhen Father Ted presented her with a machine that would ‘take the misery out of tea-making’ TV’s most aesthetically challenged housekeeper Mrs. Doyle lamented ‘some people enjoy the misery’. It’s more or less the way I feel about camping; I certainly don’t camp for any pleasure I derive from it, rather a belief that it’s somehow character building and morally robust. I’m certainly not the first to think so and in The Art of Camping Matthew de Abaitua takes us on a trip back in (fairly recent) history to look at those people for whom camping was a means to rehabilitation or a way of instilling certain values, using socialist in principle.

Part history, part memoir (though happily much less so than Emma Kennedy’s ‘The Tent, the Bucket and Me’, a recent book about remembered camping trips in the 1970s that was so awful it set my teeth on edge) The Art of Camping:The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars reminds us that while a camping can be a much needed tonic from the irritations of modern life, a way of getting back to nature and temporarily forgetting the rat race, the practice has also been (and continues to be) advocated by extremists and oddballs.


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Water-blue Eyes

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Water-blue Eyes  Author: Domingo Villar, book reviewThe Galician tourist board really ought to be paying author Domingo Villar; his Leo Caldas novels set in the coastal city of Vigo are an enticing advertisement for the region. Imagine having long leisurely seafood lunches with a glass or two of wine; follow that with a quick paddle before going back to work or even a drive to a country vineyard. It’s almost worth dealing with the occasional mutilated corpse to lead that kind of life.

In Water-blue Eyes Caldas has to investigate the mysterious death of Luis Reigosa, a jazz musician. When the call comes through, Caldas is taking part in the weekly radio programme in which he tries to help members of the public with the questions they have for the police; although Leo finds that he has to pass most questions to his colleagues in the traffic section, his new found fame helps to open doors that might otherwise remain closed, a definite advantage when for a homicide detective.


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Custody

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Custody by Manju Kapur, book reviewIn India approximately 11 marriages in every 1000 end in divorce. At a shade over 1%, this is one of the lowest rates in the world. I decided not to look up the statistics on how many wives die suddenly from unexplained accidents in the home as a result of dowry disputes as that’s another issue entirely. Let’s just say that when things go bad, a trip to the lawyers isn’t always the outcome.

In Manju Kapur’s latest novel Custody she addresses the complex issues of the relatively rare business of Indian divorce. It’s not her first time dealing with controversial issues – in fact every one of her four previous books has contained plenty to upset her more conservative readers – and like each of those books there’s a discontented woman at the heart of the story.


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1Q84

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, book review“If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation” says one of the characters in Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, and to an extent this highlights the dilemma of any reviewer of this book. Murakami is now one of the world’s leading authors, with a legion of passionate fans in almost every country. At the same time, many readers find his books puzzling and simply cannot understand the attraction of his fiction. 1Q84 is a great novel, but I wouldn’t recommend it as the starting point for anyone who wants to explore his writing.

In fact, 1Q84 is three books, and in the UK has been published in two parts with separate translators (books 1/2 and book 3). Not surprisingly, then, it will take a while for most readers to complete.


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Smokeheads

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Smokeheads, Doug Johnstone, book reviewFour thirty something friends head to the Scottish island of Islay for a weekend of drug taking and whisky tasting. Friends since their university days, it was a mutual passion for whisky that brought them together but since then their lives have taken different paths. Brash, confident Roddy makes a fortune working in futures; Luke, the quiet one, is a musician who records film soundtracks; happily married Ethan works for the Royal Bank of Scotland; and Adam sells tacky souvenirs (and the odd bottle of Scotch) to tourists in a shop on the Royal Mile. For three of the lads this is a party weekend, a chance to let of steam and get steaming drunk, but one of them has an ulterior motive for the trip.

The weekend starts with a bang when their hire car is stopped by the local police, two hard-cases who don’t take kindly to the fellas from the city but let them off with a warning, or rather a threat.


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Ingenius

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Building Brainpower, Dilip Mukerjea, book reviewThe Indian parent spends more and more time racking his or her brain as to how the child’s grades can be improved.Unleashing Genius    A Book on Learning Miracles for Children of all Ages  Dilip Mukerjea With marks getting impossibly high in the school system and so much riding on them, it is of course imperative that children be given some sort of brain headstart in the exams race. Aside from brain enhancers like almonds, there are always exercises that help enhance the mind and the memory through various time tested tricks. That’s where Dilip Mukerjea’s set of books come in, published at an invaluable time as far as the Indian school system is concerned.


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Destined

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Destined by P C Cast and Kristin Cast, book reviewDestined is the ninth novel in the popular House of night series by P.C. and Kristen Cast. Set in the present day with vampyres as part of the normal fabric of society, the series follows Zoey Redbird from the day she is Marked to be become a vampyre through the discovery she is to be an important part of the fight against evil, and of course all the events which follow.

In book number eight, Awakened, Zoey recovered from her journey to the Otherworld and yet another innocent character died. Awakened was followed by Dragon’s Oath, a novella, telling the backstory of a House of Night professor, which turns out to be relevant to Destined.


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The Sandalwood Tree

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The Sandalwood Tree, Elle Newmark, book reviewSoon after WWII, an American family moves to India. Jewish-American Martin has returned to his studies in Indian history after fighting in Europe, and has won a Fullbright Scholarship to continue his research there. Britain is preparing to grant Indian independence, including partitioning the country into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, and the family are staying in a village near Simla, near the proposed borders. Martin will be documenting the end of British rule.

Martin’s wife Evie and their 5 year old son Billy come too, and Evie tells us her story in a first person narrative. She is keen to participate in a new adventure, and anxious to hold on to her marriage to a man troubled by his recent experiences.


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Mary Boleyn

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Mary Boleyn: 'The Great and Infamous Whore' by Alison Weir, book reviewWhat do you know about Mary Boleyn, sister of the better-known Anne? The chances are that whatever you think you know is incorrect or unsubstantiated. Recent fiction such as Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, along with various historical studies, have convinced us that it is certain that Mary gave birth to two children by Henry VIII, and that she was promiscuous and branded a whore – but these “facts” are far from proven.

Alison Weir’s latest work Mary Boleyn: ‘A Great and Infamous Whore’ is the first full length biography of the lesser known Boleyn sister. With little historical evidence to go on, Mary has been misunderstood and misrepresented for centuries, and Weir aims to attempt to set the record straight.


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Paranormality

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Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There,  Professor Richard Wiseman, book reviewThe paranormal is a subject with seemingly limitless fascination for us, and in which people continue to hold as part of their belief systems. A Gallup poll taken in 2005 indicated that 30% of people believed in ghosts and 15% claimed to have seen one. Another survey taken in 2008 had 58% of respondents stating they believed in the supernatural – more than believed in God (54%). Professor Richard Wiseman states in his latest book that between 40% and 50% of people in the UK (and between 80% and 90% in the US) claim to have had some sort of paranormal experience. These are extraordinary figures. For all that we live in a well-educated society where science is more readily accessible than ever before, belief in the things that go bump in the night is still remarkably persistent. As an arch-sceptic and Britain’s only Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, Wiseman has investigated the paranormal for over twenty years, and all his experience has been poured into his latest book – Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There.


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Anger Mode

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Anger Mode,  Stefan Tegenfalk, book reviewStefan Tegenfalk’s Anger Mode gets off to a dramatic and shocking start, setting the pace for the next 430 pages. A judge coming home from a meeting brutally murders a taxi driver; previously of good demeanour, the judge seems like unlikely murderer. He’s admitting the crime, but can’t explain why he did it. Jaded (aren’t they always?) Detective Inspector Walter Grohn is charged with investigating the case, assigned to him is Jonna de Brugge, a rookie with the Swedish Investigations Unit. Two more equally horrific yet unexplainable murders follow, each one involving an employee of the Swedish judicial system.


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The Secrets Between Us

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The Secrets Between Us By (author) Louise Douglas, book reviewSarah is at her most vulnerable when she first meets Jamie and Alexander. She is on holiday with her sister and brother in law, and emotionally raw from the stillbirth of a child and the subsequent breakdown of her marriage, not to mention her husband’s infidelity with a friend.

The beginning of the story is a bit implausible – Sarah meets Jamie first, who tells her his mummy’s gone, and imagines what could have been with her stillborn baby. Then after looking at Alexander in his swimwear, they find themselves with 15 minutes to have sex. This is followed by Alexander offering her a job rather than a relationship, as a carer for Jamie – Sarah accepts and moves across the country – what has she to lose?


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